President Bush recalled Harry Truman’s legacy at a reception marking Chanukah.
Bush’s Chanukah reception Monday night, his last, featured the chanukiyah given to Truman in 1951 by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, three years after the then-U.S. president was the first world leader to recognize Israel.
“A decade after President Truman received this gift, he visited Prime Minister Ben-Gurion for one of the last times,” Bush said before the chanukiyah was lit by Clifton Truman-Daniel and Yariv Ben-Eliezer, the grandsons of both leaders. “As they parted, Ben-Gurion told the president that as a foreigner he could not judge President Truman’s place in American history, but the president’s courageous decision to recognize the new state of Israel gave him an immortal place in Jewish history.”
Bush in the past has likened himself to Truman, who left office with low popularity ratings but was later recognized as ahead of his time for his recognition of Israel and for his Cold War strategies. Bush says he feels his unpopular Iraq war policies will be vindicated by history.
At the Chanukah reception, he described his surprise tour over the weekend of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It was an unbelievable experience, it really was, to stand next to the president of a democracy and hold my hand over my heart as they played the national anthem in front of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces,” he said to the applause of a small crowd in the White House’s Grand Foyer, a room flanked by the portraits of Bush’s two immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton and his father, George H.W. Bush.
Attending the event were Jewish Bush administration officials and Republican Jews whose loyalty to the president has been unflagging, including Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and major donor to the party and to Jewish causes.
Bush singled out for greeting Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the former Democrat driven out of his party in part for his support of the Iraq war.
Chanukah begins on the evening of Dec. 21, but the White House has often timed its receptions to accommadate the Christmas break. Bush departs Dec. 23 for the presidential retreat in Camp David, Md.